State of Community Mediation 2013


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State of Community Mediation 2013

  1. 1. 2013 State of Community Mediation Report Supplement “Profiles of Growth”
  2. 2. Karmit Bullman Conflict Resolution Center MINNEAPOLIS, MN LaDessa Croucher Volunteers of America Dispute Resolution Center EVERETT, WA Mary Hancock Dispute Resolution Center of Kitsap County SILVERDALE, WA Laura Jeffords The Mediation Center ASHEVILLE, NC Daniel Kos NYS Unified Court System’s Office of ADR ALBANY, NY Matt Phillips National Association for Community Mediation PALM SPRINGS, CA Olga Sanchez Community Action Partnership Riverside RIVERSIDE, CA
  3. 3. Joe Brummer Community Mediation, Inc. HAMDEN, CT Lorig Charkoudian Community Mediation Maryland TAKOMA PARK, MA LaDessa Croucher Volunteers of America Dispute Resolution Center EVERETT, WA Elaine Dickhoner Conflict Management Group CINCINNATI, OH Gabrielle Frey Resolution Works DENVER, CO Brad Heckman New York Peace Institute NEW YORK, NY Laura Jeffords The Mediation Center ASHEVILLE, NC Daniel Kos NYS Unified Court System’s Office of ADR ALBANY, NY Jim Lingl Ventura Center for Dispute Settlement CAMARILLO, CA D.G. Mawn Intuitive Synergies LOUSVILLE, KY Steffanie Medina Creative Mediation Wilshire Community SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA Brian Pappas Michigan State University College of Law EAST LANSING, MI Kelly Riley Nebraska Mediation Association EAGLE, NE Laura Smythe Mediation Center of Greater Green Bay, Inc. GREEN BAY, WI Renata Valree City Attorney’s Dispute Resolution Program LOS ANGELES, CA Malcom White Neighborhood Justice Center LAS VEGAS, NV
  4. 4. Development of this publication has been made possible through the generous support of the JAMS Foundation, a premier resource and leader in the conflict resolution field. The JAMS Foundation’s mission is to encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), support education at all levels about collaborative processes for resolving differences, promote innovation in conflict resolution, an advance the settlement of conflict worldwide. A storied and generous supporter of community mediation, the JAMS Foundation is an aligned partner with NAFCM, committed to enhancing the awareness, accessibility, and utilization of the community mediation field and its broad portfolio of conflict-assistive services. To learn more about the JAMS Foundation, please visit
  5. 5. TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION ............................................................. PAGE 2 BOLD STEPS: HOW TO FIND YOUR DONORS .......................................... PAGE 3 Community Resolution Center Minneapolis, Minnesota STEPS TO THE CAPITAL: HOW TO FIND YOUR VOICE......................................PAGE 3 Resolution Washington Washington State STEPPING FORWARD TOGETHER: HOW TO BUILD YOUR ECONOMY OF SCALE....................PAGE 9 The Mediation Center Asheville, North Carolina TAKING ONE STEP AT A TIME: HOW TO BUILD A GRASSROOTS NETWORK.....................PAGE 9 The Mediation Center Poughkeepsie, New York EVOLVING STEPS: HOW TO FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY..............PAGE 13 Community Action Partnership of Riverside County Riverside, California CONCLUSION........................................................PAGE 16
  6. 6. INTRODUCTION Does it sometimes feel like you are in a Sherlock Holmes mystery attempting to understand how some community mediation centers are able to become financially stable and even expand significantly? The goal of the 2013 State of Community Mediation Supplement is to de-mystify this with a vivid, inside look at how growth is possible with centers of varying size and geographic location. In 2011, The State of Community Mediation Report demonstrated the tremendous depth of the over 400 community mediation centers, 1,300 staff members, and 20,000 volunteer mediators throughout the country. This Supplement builds upon this research and has collected five case studies where community mediation centers of various budget size achieved financial stability including the development of completely new revenue streams. More than ever, with traditional government funding becoming less reliable, one often hears it stated that nonprofits need to diversify their funding sources. The following five case studies have accomplished this task. Further, these successes in the field of community mediation all occurred since the downturn in the economy demonstrating the field's resilience and ability to grow under the most difficult of circumstances. The first example comes from a center in Minneapolis, Minnesota where they implemented an individual donor program that has brought in significant new revenue and community relationships. The second example comes from the state of Washington, where the state-wide association not only gave community mediation centers a voice at the state capital, but created significant new revenue streams for centers. Next, from Asheville, North Carolina, we detail community mediation’s version of a Wall Street merger, in the form of an "absorption" and see how it strengthened not 1 center, but 3 centers. The fourth example is from Riverside California, we detail a community mediation center that continues to evolve and grow after 17 years of being housed within a government agency. Finally, from Dutchess County, New York we detail how an organization, through grass-roots initiatives, triumphed over an uncertain financial position. 1|Page
  7. 7. These case studies are only a glimpse of all the progress that has occurred in the community mediation field recently. Many additional stories came forward to NAFCM from community mediation centers that have begun to make progress along similar paths as well as paths that will be profiled in future editions. NAFCM is committed to acting as a conduit for best practices in the field of community mediation to be shared with all centers. The following cases studies are 5 proven strategies that brought financial stability to centers throughout the country. However, every center is unique and should pursue the route that fits its center. NAFCM exists to provide the support, resources, and national voice needed for all community mediation centers to successfully serve its community. NAFCM’s hope is that by working together the result will be that when the next profile is published, there will be 400 new paths that were sparked by reading the following profiles. BOLD STEPS: HOW TO F IND YOUR DONORS COMMUNITY RESOLUTION CENTER MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA Most people dislike having to ask to for money. But the Community Resolution Center (CRC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota has developed an individual fundraising plan that has tremendously strengthened its center and its connection to its community. What may really surprise you is that CRC only asks for money once a year, but raised almost $100,000 last year. In fact, it developed an individual donor roster strong enough that it doesn’t even have to ask every year as the majority of its donors have committed to a multi-year gift. Although, it may appear to be magic, there is definitely a method behind CRC’s new revenue generating success. Either way it is hard to argue with CRC’s results. Since 2008, CRC has grown its net assets by 59%, its income by 68% and its members by 100%. CRC continues each year to enhance its operational strength and stability with growth across almost all revenue sources. In addition, staff has more than tripled, volunteer hours provided have increased and the 2|Page
  8. 8. number of people served by CRC each year continues to grow. In 2009, CRC had only a handful of individual donors and most of its revenue came from government sources. In 2012, government revenue made up less than one half of CRC’s revenue, contributed support comprised about 20% of the revenue and the rest of the income came from fees for service. The largest single source of income for CRC is individual donations; and this revenue keeps growing each year. In 2009, CRC held a full day Board and volunteer retreat where CRC developed a plan for executing a fundraising system similar to that taught by Benevon (previously Raising More Money) CRC’s Executive Director, Karmit Bulman, has extensive experience directing non-profits who use the Benevon model and had seen first-hand the program’s ability to generate an entirely new revenue source for an organization. From this initial retreat and training, CRC tasked its Fundraising Committee with creating a plan for twice monthly open houses. These open houses are called a “Taste of Mediation”. At each Taste of Mediation event, community members from all backgrounds have an opportunity to learn about how CRC serves the community and how it can play a part. There are always plenty of questions about mediation and related topics at Taste of Mediation events however one question never asked is “will you donate to CRC”. Figure 1. The Benevon Model Overview. 3|Page
  9. 9. CRC’s Tastes of Mediation are friend-raising events; fundraising happens only once a year. The Benevon Model makes clear that you ask for funds from your friends only at a free-one hour event that occurs annually (some organizations do these twice a year). The rest of the year, friends of the organization reap the benefits of being part of the community. They are invited to educational workshops, fun events and are invited to learn more about the organization. Donors are not hounded with letter writing campaigns, phone call solicitations or time-consuming gala invitations. It was Benevon who provides the framework for regular open houses and the annual ask event, but it was CRC who provided the heart and passion for making this a successful revenue generator. This model requires the strong support of staff, board and volunteers; this is not a one-person endeavor, but requires a strong team. CRC recommends that your initial team be comprised of at least 2 board members, 4 volunteers, and 2 staff members. As the fundraising infrastructure gets built, it is possible to move forward with fewer volunteers as long as there are dedicated staff members to make sure the fundraising efforts are successful. Once the team is assembled and there is strong buy-in, a number of items need to be accomplished: ● Plan the open houses including venue, strategic date/times, and participants. ● Create a compelling 7-8 minute video. ● Develop marketing materials. ● Plan the annual fundraiser. ● Make sure the open houses have a steady stream of guests who are likely to become involved with the organization. In 2009, the CRC hosted its first Taste of Mediation, however only 3 guests showed up; however, there was a definite sense that this one hour event was a good way to bring new friends to the organization. Now that CRC moves into the 4th year of hosting twice monthly Tastes of Mediation, it is clear that its visibility in the community has risen tremendously. CRC has brought hundreds of new donors into the organization. There is a new buzz about community mediation and the new energy and excitement is palpable on Taste of Mediation Tuesdays. 4|Page
  10. 10. The Taste of Mediation events culminate in an annual fundraising breakfast that CRC calls “Bold Steps”. The annual fundraising breakfast is the only time that supporters and attendees of the “Tastes of Mediation” are actually asked for money. At CRC’s first breakfast in 2009, it generated over $43,000 in new revenue. It was at this point, that the CRC team felt that they had found a vehicle for solid revenue generation. In 2012, the Bold Steps revenue increased to $90,000. Many of the gifts to CRC are made in the form of multi-year pledges; as a result the CRC can rely upon ongoing and sustainable income from private donors. Figure 2. With Conflict Resolution Center’s strengthened community support it now relies on government support for less than half its annual revenue. Benevon is definitely a fundraising program that any community mediation center would benefit from. CRC not only benefited from the new revenue from implementing an individual donor program but also strengthened the organization at its core. CRC’s board, staff, and volunteers have learned to plan, collaborate, and execute in ways that carried over into other areas of the organization’s work. Together it accomplished something remarkable…and it didn’t even have to ask twice. 5|Page
  11. 11. STEPS TO THE CAPITAL: HOW TO FIND YOUR VOICE RESOLUTION WASHINGTON WASHINGTON STATE Seven years ago in Washington State, community mediation had no voice in the state capital of Olympia. No voice may be an over-statement, but there was definitely no collective advocacy for community mediation taking place. Then Resolution Washington (the state-wide association for community mediation centers) developed a vision for advocacy for the state that would make a dramatic impact for community mediation. In the fall of 2006, a state-wide legislative committee was formed that was comprised of directors of community mediation centers from across the state. In Washington State, community mediation centers receive funding from a surcharge collected on civil district court filings. The maximum filing fee per filing had not increased since the initial legislation permitting the surcharge was created in 1990. During the ensuing years, the real value of a dollar had decreased by about 35%. The legislative committee quickly sought to increase the maximum possible surcharge through its new legislative advocacy. However, the legislature had recently approved an increase to the court filing fees to benefit local court operating expenses which made the political climate extremely unfavorable to another fee increase, no matter what the reason. So it felt like the committee had quickly reached a dead-end and new funding from its advocacy and legislative efforts felt like a pipe dream. However, also during this time, it began to interview potential lobbyists to assist in its legislative advocacy and funding efforts. One of these lobbyists was Lonnie Johns Brown, who had extensive experience representing clients in the social services field. Lonnie was hired and attended one of the next quarterly meetings of community mediation centers state-wide. At this meeting, Lonnie made it clear that if Resolution Washington was to be successful in Olympia, then community mediation centers staff, board, and supporters were going to need to be her partners in advocacy. Further, she explained that she could have meetings with legislators all day but those meetings would not have an impact without the corresponding visits, phone calls and emails from its constituents. 6|Page
  12. 12. Figure 3. Resolution Washington Lobbyist Lonnie Johns Brown has advocated for community mediation in Olympia, Washington since 2006. This education in political advocacy continued for every day after that as Resolution Washington learned to navigate the politics of a state capital. Throughout these efforts, there was constant communication between the Resolution Washington Legislative Committee and their lobbyist. If Lonnie met with a representative or a senator, the legislative committee would quickly receive notice that follow up with that legislator was needed. The legislative committee would then contact the respective center to make the necessary contacts. Similarly, if a director had a meeting with their legislator, this information was quickly passed to Lonnie as well. This consistent sharing of information between their lobbyist and the committee led to an effective leveraging of Resolution Washington’s state-wide reach as well as the lobbyist’s experience and knowledge. During, the first legislative session of activity Resolution Washington was able to receive $500,000 per year for a 2 year biennium in general capacity funds for community mediation centers across the state. (Resolution Washington had initially sought $1,500,000 per year, but were able to secure the $500,000.) There was a sense that Resolution Washington had successfully created a voice for community mediation within Washington State Legislature. Unfortunately, the next 6 years were to see some of the most difficult 7|Page
  13. 13. revenue shortfall in Washington State history and the word from Lonnie was that the “last funding in is the first funding cut”. The Resolution Washington Legislative committee and membership knew it was going to have to work harder than what it had first imagined in order to maintain this legislative foothold that it had temporarily achieved. Over the next 6 years, Resolution Washington and Lonnie undertook the following action steps in order to expand its political presence in Olympia:   Each year, the Resolution Washington Legislative Committee came up with a new “one pager” that provided a clear overview for legislators of what Resolution Washington does for the state and what Resolution Washington was hoping to accomplish in the upcoming legislative session. The one pager included data on how many individuals and families had been served by community mediation centers in the past year.  Mediation success stories were distributed by the local Olympia Dispute Resolution Center staff on a weekly basis during the session. These success stories were contributed by centers throughout the state on a variety of topics that reflected the broad impact of community mediation.  The Resolution Washington Legislative Committee responded quickly to all directions from Lonnie. If meetings, calls, emails needed to occur with particular legislators, the legislative committee promptly made these tasks happen with the support of the directors state-wide.  8|Page Directors continued to speak directly with their state legislators but it expanded to imploring staff, board members, volunteers, and other supporters to do the same. The Resolution Washington Legislative Committee created talking points and support for these new voices for community mediation. The Resolution Washington Legislative Committee kept the membership updated frequently on how things were going and what action steps needed to be completed, usually within short time frames.
  14. 14.  The Resolution Washington Legislative Committee met at the annual retreat to outline priorities for the upcoming legislative session. As of today, approximately seven years after the Resolution Washington Legislative Committee first assembled, Resolution Washington has received a minimum of $500,000 a year in general capacity funding for community mediation centers nationwide totaling over $3 million. Additionally, during this time period, Resolution Washington received $500,000 in state legislative funding for family mediation services. Just as significant as this new funding source was the new way that community mediation centers and their services were being viewed by the community. Community mediation centers in Washington were being asked to do more group facilitations for government agencies and workplaces than anytime previous. But, no one could have predicted where Resolution Washington’s legislative advocacy would take community mediation centers next. From 2007 to 2010, like through most of the country, home foreclosures dramatically increased in Washington State. In 2010, a number of stakeholders began meeting to discuss the possibility of new legislation that would provide homeowners and the note holder/bank the opportunity to sit down together in mediation before a home foreclosure occurred. A combination of a tip from the legal community and utilizing Lonnie to know what to do with the information led to Resolution Washington having a voice in the shaping of Washington State’s Foreclosure Fairness Act. This voice allowed community mediation centers to become partners with Department of Commerce, the state agency tasked with developing the foreclosure mediation program, in creating a framework that provided professional mediation services cost-effectively throughout the state. Community mediation centers from the beginning were the primary providers of home foreclosure mediations in the state with approximately 70% of referrals going to a community mediation center. During the first year, community mediation centers generated new revenue from home foreclosure services fees of approximately $350,000 however this funding was significantly short of what was needed. Specifically, additional funding was necessary for intake, case management and mediation service delivery as community mediation centers across the state began to feel significant financial pressure. Once again, Resolution Washington came together and drafted a proposal for funding support from the National Bank Settlement. 9|Page
  15. 15. Figure 4. Brochure from the Washington State Department of Commerce and Resolution Washington partnership to provide Washington State’s Home Foreclosure Program. In response to this proposal, in 2012, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office awarded Resolution Washington $2.1 million to support the home foreclosure program for the following 3 years. Additionally, Resolution Washington was able to get commitment of $100,000 annually of state funding from the Department of Commerce funding from fees generated from bank foreclosure default filing fees for community mediation centers to provide home foreclosure mediation services through 2015. Resolution Washington Legislative Chair, Mary Hancock elaborates, “The program continues successfully today with community mediation centers playing a crucial role in training foreclosure mediators, tracking data, supporting administrative functions of the Department of Commerce as well as continuing to provide the majority of the foreclosure mediation services”. Resolution Washington has proven to be successful in giving community mediation centers a voice in the state capital, as well as generating necessary new revenue that provides the state cost effective services. Community mediation centers came together in order to amplify their voice and generate new revenue that would have been impossible for one center to secure on its own. But, the partnerships expanded beyond the community mediation community and state legislators to include legal aid organizations, banks, county/city government, Bar Associations, housing counselors, the Governor, and other community organizations. In the 10 | P a g e
  16. 16. end, Resolution Washington’s legislative activities have created a statewide infrastructure that has positioned community mediation centers to continue to generate revenue while meeting the state’s and their respective communities’ conflict resolution needs. STEPPING FORWARD TOGETHER: HOW TO BUILD YOUR ECONOMY OF SCAL E THE MEDIATION CENTER ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA You may have heard of Wall Street firms performing mergers and acquisitions as vehicle for sustainability and growth, and now community mediation centers have found a way to join together as a growth engine as well. Like many community mediation centers across the US, mediation centers in North Carolina lost a large amount of government funding during the recession. Prior to 2010, the North Carolina legislature had provided a line-item allocation to support the money-saving work of the state’s 22 community mediation centers. All of this funding was eliminated at the start of the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Although the amount of funding comprised a relatively small amount of the overall budget of many centers, tight funding from all sources made this change particularly difficult. The Mediation Center has provided services in Buncombe County, North Carolina since 1984. Nearby Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania Counties had been served by two other organizations since the mid-80s as well. After the state budget cuts were implemented, the Mediation Center was approached by the boards of directors of the Dispute Settlement Center of Henderson and Polk Counties and the Center for Dialogue of Transylvania County. The Mediation Center began to explore a variety of possible ways that they could work together to ensure that their services continued to be available in the region. A short three months after the start of the discussion, the three centers came to an agreement that the Mediation Center would absorb the other two organizations – a process similar to a merger, but where only assets and not liabilities are taken on. The Mediation Center worked with an attorney who had expertise in nonprofit law throughout the process, for the purpose of drafting a sound agreement which would limit risk to all parties and ensure clarity around critical issues. The three board worked together through several drafts of 11 | P a g e
  17. 17. Figure 5. A map of the counties involved in the 3 center merger in North Carolina. the agreement, and continued friendly negotiations until all three boards voted unanimously to approve the arrangement. From the time of the first discussion until the absorption was final, only three months passed. This accelerated timeline was necessary to preserve the assets of all three agencies by moving toward a more efficient business model as quickly as possible. During the preparation period, the Executive Director met several times with each board and also the volunteer mediators in each county to share the vision for the new organization and learn more about local operations and culture. While volunteers understood the necessity of the move and were largely in agreement about its benefits, it was important to process the feelings of sadness and loss experienced by those who had spent many years investing in their local organizations and to ensure that systems and relationships were in place to preserve local input and engagement. In order to ensure that there was continuous, high-quality service across their new, regional service area, The Mediation Center hired all the program staff from the other two organizations, maintained each office location, and brought members from each community onto the board of 12 | P a g e
  18. 18. directors. It quickly identified the importance of working closely with their grant funders throughout the process, and was able to maintain all committed funding. Further, it formed a Volunteer Council in each community. The Volunteer Councils consist primarily of former members of the boards of directors of the two dissolved agencies, who are longstanding supporters and program volunteers. The Volunteer Councils not only allowed The Mediation Center to maintain community ties, but it additionally expanded its capacity for fundraising, donor development, and community relations. Volunteer Council members implement strategies that fit each community, and use their connections to conduct meaningful outreach and to personally connect with donors. There are many advantages to being a regional organization. As one organization, The Mediation Center’s costs are lower for many back-office functions including auditing, bookkeeping, insurance, benefits, and IT system maintenance, to name a few examples. The Mediation Center has also grown from 11 to 17 staff, creating larger teams within each program. Staff benefit from having more peers doing similar work with whom they can collaborate day-to-day. They have been able to take the systems and practices that were working best from each of the three organizations and expand those across all four counties, which has strengthened their programs and increased the quality of their services. Of course, there were also many challenges, and lots of work to do. The first year as a regional organization was filled with numerous new projects – from training all staff on policies and procedures, re-organizing work flow processes to account for distance, a substantial change to the organizational chart, and new job descriptions for nearly all staff. At times, it was difficult for staff to keep up with program responsibilities while also making transitions in most aspects of their work. Many staff members worked extra hours for several months to ensure that they were able to serve clients while combining processes and cultures. The three centers started their time together with several intensive planning sessions to determine where they wanted to standardize services and processes, and where differences were relevant and useful. They also received a grant to hire a marketing and branding consultant who assisted their board and staff in re-writing brochures and other key materials as well as designing a new logo. This gave the new Mediation Center a unified look and message that allowed them to avoiding using the image of just one of the organizations that had come together. 13 | P a g e
  19. 19. It was crucial that they quickly standardized as many parts of their operation as possible:  Volunteer mediators receive the same pre- and in-service training, use the same forms, and follow the same procedures.  The scope of their service is more similar in each county, but distinctions remain based on the needs of the court and the services of other nonprofits.  Human resources functions like payroll, benefits, and timesheets are handled centrally  They worked with funders to make grant outcomes for similar programs as similar as possible, so that data tracking is more efficient  They have moved to cloud-based computing so that collaboration is easier and staff that move between office locations can access documents from anywhere.  They now have a VOIP phone system connected across locations that allows them to transfer client calls internally.  Fundraising is coordinated across the organization, which allows for the undertaking of larger projects and has increased gifts. After two years, things are running smoothly. Revenue-wise, the Mediation Center has been able to spend more money on programs because less funding is needed to support management and administrative aspects. Further, it has received new and/or increased support from many funders who appreciate its innovative response to the difficult economy, feel hopeful for its future, and see strong evidence of its ability to collaborate and adapt. The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina helped it get started with a $20,000 grant to cover IT and phone upgrades, as well as the marketing and branding consultant. It was also recently selected for a $150,000 three-year capacity building grant from the Melvin R. Lane Fund of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina which will enable them to hire its first full-time development coordinator, and expand the hours of the 14 | P a g e
  20. 20. administrative assistant so that the Executive Director can spend more time on strategic leadership, staff development, and major donor relationships. Figure 6. The board chairs and executive directors who created and signed the agreement for the Mediation Center to become a regional organization. Left to right: Jan Woloson, former Executive Director of Dispute Settlement Center of Henderson and Polk Counties (currently Senior Mediator/Trainer at the Mediation Center); Don Huber, former board chair of Dispute Settlement Center of Henderson and Polk Counties; Lucy Lawrence, former board chair of the Mediation Center; Laura Jeffords, Executive Director of The Mediation Center; Joe Wilbanks, former board chair of the Center for Dialogue of Transylvania County; Susan Miller, former Executive Director of the Center for Dialogue of Transylvania County. In difficult economic times, three centers in North Carolina became one and have increased more than just revenue. They have a strong partnership with Western North Carolina Nonprofit Pathways, a regional capacity building organization that has provided consultants to help with strategic planning, marketing, fundraising, and board development. Also, they learned a lot from the other regional nonprofits in its area whom have experience serving multiple counties. Having adequate support from experts and peers has been critical during this transition period. The Mediation Center has had to make a large number of decisions, bring together the culture of their staff and board members, and develop a new regional identify. There is an unmistakable sense of pride when three groups join together and are able to sustain services to people who are experiencing difficult and stressful times. In North Carolina, an absorption was the key to community mediation’s growth and sustainability. 15 | P a g e
  21. 21. EVOLVING STEPS: HOW TO FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE COMMUNITY COMMUNITY ACTION PARTNERSHIP OF RIVERSIDE COUNTY RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA Approximately 86% of community mediation centers are non-profit agencies while the remaining 14% of centers are housed within a government agency. The centers housed within government agencies have a unique set of benefits and challenges, and the Community Action Partnership of Riverside County (CAP Riverside) has leveraged their unique vantage point for significant growth in serving its community. CAP Riverside is a public agency within the County of Riverside, California and for the past 34 years, CAP Riverside has been governed by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and is administered by the Community Action Commission. Also, CAP Riverside is a member of a national network of 1,100 community action agencies (CAAs) created through the 1964 War on Poverty legislation. From the outside, this may sound like a traditional government agency, but it is pushing itself to continue to evolve and has recently experienced tremendous growth. Over these past 17 years, since the establishment of its Dispute Resolution Center, CAP Riverside has served its community in a number of ways including partnering with its local courts, law enforcement, and other government agencies to offer a well-rounded mediation program. Although, it receives funding from the government, every year it must demonstrate that its services are meeting the community’s needs in order to continue to be funded. To illustrate, it was just 4 years ago that CAP Riverside saw a need in its community that was not being met. In 2009, CAP Riverside, implemented a preventative aspect to its program that would provide mediation tools directly to elementary, middle, and high school students. The program was started in direct response to conflicts that community members children were having in school. As many of us know, Peer Mediation is a voluntary process where students, trained as Peer Mediators, help other students come to a better understanding of each other and reach their own solution to school conflicts (i.e. rumors, bullying, etc.). Peer mediators become models of peacemaking wherever they go, helping to make their homes, their schools, and their communities a better place to live. Using conflict resolution skills and the peer mediation process, students can begin to see conflict as an opportunity for growth and learning, rather than something that fuels anger, frustration, or even violence. 16 | P a g e
  22. 22. The program started off at Sunnymead Middle School, a low-income school located in the city of Moreno Valley with 25 students. The program was quickly embraced by the community and there was a strong desire that the program expand. The very next year, the program expanded to 6 middle and high schools. By 2011, the program had grown to 25 schools and by 2012 over 1800 students and school administrators had been reached in less than 3 years. Figure 7. Future community mediation center leaders: peer mediation students take on their first case. While CAP Riverside was definitely not the first community mediation center to implement a Peer Mediation Program, it is a clearly unique example of a government program continuing to grow through strengthened community partnerships. CAP Riverside emphasizes the significance of a first impression in creating and developing new community partnerships. To illustrate, if Sunnymead Middle School (the first school where the program was implemented) would have had a negative experience, the program would have not had the community support it needed to significantly grow to 25 schools in such a short period of time. However, sometimes a positive experience is not quite enough. CAP Riverside not only planned out its first Peer Mediation Program with extreme detail, but it made sure to capitalize on its success through creating open lines of communication with the community. Specifically, CAP Riverside quickly documented the success at Sunnymead Middle School and began sharing this success with the community through surveys, success stories, school follow ups, and involving participating students in other aspects of its program (i.e. Mediation Conference). In the short time since the program’s inception, CAP Riverside has created hundreds of new partnerships. One such new “partner” was a Peer 17 | P a g e
  23. 23. Counselor from Raymond Cree Middle School in Palm Springs who stated, “We had a number of students that would get into arguments, disagreements, or even talk of fighting until meeting with two Peer Mediators to reach a peaceful solution. Our fights went down by 50% from last year. I strongly attribute the statistics to our Peer Mediation program.” Recently, CAP Riverside was able to showcase its Peer Mediation program at its Annual Mediation Conference. It received additional community support from judges and other stakeholders in the community that will continue to move the program forward. Figure 8. Peer mediation students participate in the CAP Riverside’s 2nd Annual Mediation Conference. In the next 2 years, CAP Riverside plans to double the number of students and school personnel trained. This would mean that 3,600 students and school personnel would be trained in just the 6 years since the program’s inception. This is the type of exponential program growth commonly identified with Silicon Valley start-ups, not governmental programs. Riverside County is a leader in innovative government. Further, the Board of Supervisors has adopted the goal of creating Healthy Communities. Health entails more than just medical well-being. Mediation is a very important tool in ensuring the overall health of a community. With the combined resources that county government offers, and the innovation that has marked the success of CAP Riverside, this agency is leading the way among public agencies that offer mediation services. 18 | P a g e
  24. 24. TAKING ONE STEP AT A TIME: HOW TO TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY THE MEDIATION CENTER OF DUTCHESS COUNTY POUGHKEEPSIE, NEW YORK In April of 2011 Jody Miller, Executive Director of the Mediation Center of Dutchess County (MCDC), received a shocking phone call from the organization’s stable long-term funder. The state court system informed her that MCDC’s funding would be cut by $25,000. This surprising news came on the heels of dramatic cuts from the County. “All told we lost more than $150,000 of funding in a matter of 16 months,” recalls Miller. With a staff of seven FTEs reduced by half, MCDC was forced to maintain only a part-time office and significantly scale back its community mediation services. Caseload numbers which topped 650 cases a year fell below 400 cases. Fortunately, MCDC retained its reputation as an innovative community mediation center and a high quality social service provider. In previous years MCDC launched a successful elder mediation service; developed a ground-breaking partnership with Dutchess County Domestic Violence Services (formerly Battered Women’s Services) which provides custody and visitation, divorce, and intimate partner mediation for victims of domestic violence; and transitioned to adopt the use of the transformative mediation orientation in all of its casework. This reputation was a critical asset as Miller and the MCDC Board of Directors developed strategies to stabilize the organization during the economic downturn. Faced with an uncertain financial future, the Board directed its short-term strategy towards connecting with twelve local foundations in the hopes of shortterm stabilizing revenue. Impressed by the center’s past and current work, the Board successfully received support from four of those foundations. This accomplishment, in turn, galvanized the Board to raise the bar even higher and undertake a long-term comprehensive approach to restructuring the organization by building new alliances while maintaining its core programs. One aspect of its strategy was to look beyond mediation services and see how else the organization could meet the needs of the community. Without compromising its commitment to mediation, MCDC explored how it could put collaborative values to work in the community building and community organizing efforts related to its programming. It began by building deeper connections with its local and county governmental agencies and elected officials. Working in concert with the Dutchess 19 | P a g e
  25. 25. County Coalition of Nonprofits, MCDC re-established connections with county legislators, county commissioners, the country Executive, and department heads from the Health Department and Probation Department. This effort not only allowed MCDC to better understand the county’s social service priorities, but also helped it to provide input and shape the priorities. MCDC responded to the priorities by establishing and expanding two community-wide coalitions—the Coalition on Elder Abuse in Dutchess County [“Coalition”] and the Anti-Bullying Initiative. Figure 9. Advertisement for the Anti-Bullying Youth Summit sponsored by the Mediation Center of Dutchess County. The Coalition came into existence when MCDC conducted a community needs assessment before launching an elder mediation program. Stakeholders identified elder abuse as a community-wide issue that needed attention and could potentially compromise the effectiveness of mediation services. The Center responded by adjusting its typical screening and mediation processes and also helped convene the Coalition, now comprised of more than 30 organizations including governmental agencies, nonprofits, faith based institutions, law enforcement, and financial services providers. Together these partners initiated the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day held in Dutchess County in cooperation with the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA). The Anti-bullying Initiative also grew from MCDC many years of providing peer mediator training and partnering with schools to provide services in cases involving young people. Increasing reports of youth suicide when bullying was a factor, and the implementation of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) that went into effect July 2012, inspired MCDC to do more. Since its inception, the Anti-bullying Initiative has employed grassroots organizing such a Walkathon, film screenings, Youth Summits, 20 | P a g e
  26. 26. and a student art show. MCDC engaged county and local government officials in the development of these events including key officials such as the Health Commissioner and County Executive as chairpersons and speakers. Figure 10. The Mediation Center’s Anti-Bullying Walkathon Over the Hudson. “Community mediation programs are often reluctant to engage in coalitions and advocacy work for fear of compromising the community’s perception of their neutrality, “explains NAFCM Executive Director Matt Phillips. “MCDC’s experience shows that by connecting advocacy work to universal issues such as elder abuse and anti-bullying, issues that grow from the organization deep connection to the value of people’s selfdetermination, that community mediation centers can use advocacy strategies to advance their missions without compromising their values.” As MCDC’s commitment to the Coalition and Anti-bullying Initiative grew, so did their visibility in the community. Now perceived as more than a mediation service provider, MCDC received the attention of new funders and the renewed interest of past funders. The County now funds MCDC for nearly $85,000 to coordinate the Elder Abuse Coalition, lead elder abuse awareness training programs, and support its work in bullying prevention. United Way, who had changed its funding priorities and stopped funding MCDC five years ago, returned as a funder, providing a grant of $25,000 to implement anti-bullying programming. In Forces for Good, Leslie Crutchfiled and Heather McLeod Grant explain that “the best nonprofits both advocate and serve. They couple policy reform with program or direct services to create more impact By operating programs on the ground, they gain a first-hand view of the problems facing their constituents and can . . . inform their proposed 21 | P a g e
  27. 27. policy solutions. And by engaging in policy . . . reform, organizations can influence legislation and identify new opportunities for programs. Ultimately the two activities reinforce each other.” MCDC’s work is a rare example of a community mediation program that employs this strategy. Not only has the organization been able to advance its mission, its grassroots approach to long-term development has helped the organization attain the financial resources needed to support its sustainability while augmenting its impact in the community. SUMMARY: NEXT STEPS NAFCM hopes that these examples will shine as beacons of inspiration. It hopes that these case studies will not only serve as concrete examples of what is possible but will generate other stories to come forward from community mediation centers across the globe. The case studies above are all very distinct from each other, very much like how things appear when looking at map (or now MapQuest) and calculating the various potential routes to your destination. Similarly, just as you may pick the most scenic or perhaps the quickest route to meet your driving needs, there may be a case study in this report that will meet your center’s specific needs better than the others. If there is one or more that really seems to be a good fit for your center please contact NAFCM for more information and support in reaching the same success as the centers profiled here. These stories are just starting points for all centers, including the centers profiled. The next chapters of all these storied will be impacted by many factors that may not be in our control. However what is in our control is the ability to share what has worked and what has not. The field of community mediation has become too large not to be consistently learning from the extraordinary amount of experience, wisdom, and expertise. Even within these case studies, we see that that most of the examples include a group of community mediation centers coming together to accomplish things. However, even in the centers that were successful without concrete partnerships with other centers, it is evident that that it was crucial to have created significant partnerships with other nonprofits and community organizations. 22 | P a g e
  28. 28. Over the next couple of years, together we can write the next chapters which will contain hybrids of these success stories as well as completely new paths to success in the field. In this way, we can not only help those in our community but also help each other to better serve our communities through shared methods proven to alleviate the financial stresses that too often impinge upon our ability to achieve our aims. Community mediation works best when people work together, and we believe that the same is true of community mediation groups as well. NAFCM is committed to working together with community mediation centers across the country until success and growth in the field of community mediation will be “elementary, my dear Watson”. 23 | P a g e
  29. 29. For more information contact NAFCM: (602) 633-4213 24 | P a g e
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